(NaturalNews) A recent article in USA Today tells the story of a local, independent medical practitioner who, after 27 years of private practice, was forced to accept a buy-out by Bon Secours St. Francis Health System in South Carolina. "I didn't want to be bought. I wanted my independence," Dr. Carolyn Fields told reporters, "But it's becoming more and more difficult. And I got tired of all that."
Scant reimbursements from Medicare/Medicaid, increased insurance control and the constant threat of lawsuits have made private practice almost unbearable for most physicians. USA Today reports that 70 percent of the 900 Greenville County Medical Society members currently work in a hospital setting.
A national trend
This phenomenon is not isolated to Greenville. In 2011, the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) published a report stating that over 50 percent of practicing U.S. physicians were employed by hospitals or integrated health systems. According to the NEJM, this trend has been "fueled by the intended creation of accountable care organizations (ACOs) and the prospect of more risk-based payment approaches." Consequently, health-care costs are expected to skyrocket.
Bad news for healthcare
Earlier this year, Forbes contributing writer Dr. Scott Gottlieb insisted that healthcare "integration" is bad news. Gottlieb says, "There's ample evidence that provider productivity declines when doctors become salaried employees of hospitals." The concerns are obvious: frank waste of resources and compromised care.
Is it all about the money?
According to a study published by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), the answer is yes. "The research evidence on physician-hospital consolidation does not find evidence supporting either clinical gains or cost reductions," RWJF reports. The reasons for this vary and indicate that consolidation efforts do not lead to true integration.
ObamaCare and a monopoly of power
Gottlieb brings up another interesting point: Obamacare has implemented financial incentives to stimulate the growth of ACOs. Subsequently, because "the law punishes excess return on invested capital" on new healthcare ventures, major institutions (i.e. hospitals) that are already entrenched in the system will utilize these benefits. Evidently, much of the capital used to build healthcare service start-ups have dried up, and the remaining funds being used are from "buyout shops looking to consolidate existing players."
The RWJF report expresses "concerns that consolidation may have adverse impacts on competition." Darwinian at its core, the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. In the end, it will be the major conglomerates and hospitals that will survive, ultimately sucking up all the "little guys" in its monopolizing whirlpool of bargaining power.
Healthcare costs skyrocket
If this model continues, higher health care costs are inevitable. According to RWJF, "Increases in hospital market concentration lead to increases in price of hospital care." In fact, "Price increases exceed 20 percent when mergers occurred in concentrated markets."
MedPac, a Congressionally-funded Medicare consultant agrees. "Compared with rates in physicians' offices," the commissioners wrote in their 2013 Report to Congress on Medicare Payment Policy, "Medicare payment rates for (office) visits are 80 percent higher and echocardiograms are over 70 percent higher when billed as outpatient services even after adjusting for differences in packaging." In 2011, these discrepancies translated into excess costs of $1.5 billion to Medicare and beneficiaries, MedPAC reported.
Call to action!
As the U.S. healthcare system crumbles before our very eyes, it is more important now than ever to implement natural cures and remedies. We must train ourselves and our children to be self-sufficient and learn to live outside the control of this broken system.
About the author: Journalist, medical researcher, speaker, and life coach, Eric L. Zielinski has been writing prolifically since 1998. Formerly trained as primary care provider and peer-review researcher, he has published an eclectic selection of health content for several print and online publications. Zielinski earned his Bachelor of Arts in English from Wayne State University in 2002 and is currently wrapping up his Doctorate of Chiropractic at Life University along with a Masters of Public Health at Emory University. Visit his blog. Track his work on facebook. Read Eric's other naturalnews.com articles.
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